Keres-Speaking Pueblos

The Keres language is an isolate language spoken only among the people of seven pueblos in New Mexico. The language is further divided into Eastern and Western subsets, each of which is significantly different from the other. Each pueblo also has its own dialect of Keres but each dialect is mutually intelligible with its nearest neighbors.

Some sources say Keres has been traced back through Mesa Verde to the Chaco Canyon area. The Eastern and Western variants diverged around 1000 CE when the Western Keres-speaking people left the Four Corners area and migrated south, eventually reaching the empty zone between the Chaco influence to the north and the Mogollon influence to the south. Within a hundred years, the budding settlements at Acoma and Laguna were on their own, Chaco and Mogollon influences were scattered to the winds.

The Acomas have been in essentially the same place for more than 1,000 years. Their water sources were very good, their defensive position was very good and, once they built, a couple major trade routes intersected there. There is some overlap in time between the founding of Acoma and the abandonment of the Mimbres Valley, indicating the possibility that some of the Mimbres people migrated to Acoma. The pot sherds left behind around Acoma say they did. There are similar potsherds found around Laguna and Isleta, too.

Some of the Western Keres people decided to build in the Laguna area on the shores of the lake. The farmland of both Acoma and Laguna stretched out through the drainage of the Rio San Jose but there seem to have never been any large communities built there. Over the years those small pueblos moved around but, for the most part, their landscape was unpopulated.

Today's Laguna Pueblo was mostly settled by refugees leaving Acoma in the mid-1690's to make peace with the Spanish when they returned to New Mexico after the 1680 revolt. They first built near the lake Laguna was named for, to the south and west of a couple older pueblos that were still inhabited (but there's precious little history available about them).

The Eastern Keres-speaking pueblos were settled by migrants moving back to the area from Mesa Verde, most likely in the 1200s CE. The group that eventually settled San Felipe, Santo Domingo and Cochiti first stopped in the Jemez Mountains on the Pajarito Plateau for a couple hundred years (site of today's Bandelier National Monument). Then they migrated closer to the Rio Grande to the south of Frijoles Canyon. The San Felipes went furthest south, building on the west bank of the Rio Grande first, then crossing the river to where there was more farmland and building a second pueblo. The Cochitis and Santo Domingos split at the river, with the Santo Domingos crossing to the eastern shore and the Cochitis not.

Over time populations grew and the people of Santo Domingo spread eastward, up the Galisteo Creek drainage to where they came up against the Middle and Southern Tewas. The Cerrillos Hills are in the Galisteo Creek drainage and that is where the lead/silver/copper/turquoise deposits that fueled the Santo Domingo and Southern and Middle Tewa economies are found. When the Spanish returend after the Pueblo Revolt, they seized all the lead sources they could find and denied the people access. Overnight, the glazeware pottery that had been produced throughout the area were gone and the pottery became no longer water resistant. A hint of dryness in the air in the late 1690s and shortly, the Santo Domingos had returned downstream to Santo Domingo and the Middle and Southern Tewas moved north.

The Zias and Santa Anas seem to have taken a different route, travelling south through the Jemez Mountains beyond the lands of the Towa-speaking Hamish (the Spanish couldn't pronounce the original name, they thought "Jemez" was close enough) and then downstream along the Jemez River toward the Rio Grande. The Santa Anas settled along the southern edge of the Jemez Mountains on the Jemez River while the Zias settled in a place upstream that turned out to have much less usable farmland.

Then came another period of drought and those who could moved closer to the Rio Grande itself. That migration was still going on when Coronado and his men came through in 1540. When Coronado arrived at the Rio Grande, he went to Kuaua first. At that time he found 11 or 12 Tiwa-speaking pueblos in the middle Rio Grande area. His demands of the people there led to the Tiguex War in which the Spaniards attacked virtually all of those pueblos and killed a few warriors, raped a few women and stole their food stores. The diseases they left behind did the rest.

When the Spanish returned in force a few years later, the Tiguex area was partially occupied by migrants from Santa Ana moving downstream toward the Rio Grande. Only the Isleta and Alameda pueblos remained of the Southern Tiwa.

The Franciscans named each pueblo after different Catholic saints and soon began their attempted destruction of native languages and religions. They also enslaved the people to build great mission structures and serve the priests so fully that the people couldn't even feed or clothe themselves properly. The first American Revolution was fought for freedom from that.